LOS ANGELES - Early Thursday morning, on what would evolve into a picture-perfect Southern California day, the placid surf near the Santa Monica pier was beginning to stir. High above, on a hotel balcony, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was reading a newspaper.
But when Vigneault met the media for an off-day briefing after Wednesday night's 3-2 overtime loss to the Kings in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, he focused on letters rather than words:
How to map out getting from Point B to Point A.
How to avoid another L in this seven-game series.
How to work a W into the equation.
"I haven't watched the whole game yet," Vigneault said. "I've watched parts. One thing that's real evident to me, and it should be to our whole group, is we're not going to beat this team if we do not all bring our A-game.
"We had Henrik [Lundqvist, 40 saves], who brought his A-game. We had a couple guys I don't want to name . . . But our B-game won't do it. We're not going to win if we bring our B-game to the table.
"They're one of the best teams I've seen in a long time. Areas to exploit? They don't jump out at you. We're going to have to be better than we were."
After just one game against the Western Conference champions, Vigneault knew the Kings would be a far higher hurdle to clear than the teams the Rangers faced in the first three rounds of the playoffs.
"The three teams we met before were different," Vigneault said. "Philly was a physical team. They played on the edge. Pittsburgh played more of a skill game. But they also had quite a few players that played on the edge. Montreal was a real structured team. This one here is structured. They've got skill. They're physical. Makes it a pretty big challenge."
Asked what his version of an A-game entails, Vigneault described "a combination of compete level, execution and sticking to the plan. When your players are executing -- and they won't be perfect, you can't be perfect all the time -- but you can put yourselves in situations that when you're not perfect, you can still make a play.
"Compete level, all the one-on-one battles, and there are tons that you can see there, when you see that your guys are there, you know they've got their A-game. When it's not there, B is not going to cut it against this team."
By no means were Vigneault or his players throwing in the beach towel.
"When we played Game 6 against Montreal, each and every player brought his A- game. It's not an easy thing to do," Vigneault said. "But against this opponent -- and I do believe our expectations are to win -- we've got to find a way to do it.
"For 40 minutes, we went head-to-head with them. When they had a push, we had one guy that had a big push. Our goaltender permitted us to stay in that game. We were one shot away. For us to win, we're going to have to find a way to play to our strengths. Speed is definitely one of them."
In the first period, when the Rangers bolted to a 2-0 lead on a breakaway goal by Benoit Pouliot and Carl Hagelin's shorthander, "we did a great job of using our speed, getting pucks deep, also getting pucks at the net, which gave us some offensive time, a couple faceoffs in the offensive zone," Hagelin said. "In the third, we had way too many turnovers, didn't get deep enough in their zone. If you give them time to skate with the puck, time to spend a lot of time in our end, they're going to do a good job."
Ryan McDonagh, who logged a game-high 31:12, said the Rangers can turn the page quickly.
"For the majority of the game, I felt we were matching them physically,'' he said. "We had some big hits ourselves. We understand they're going to be physical, and we're not going to shy away from it for sure. We've got to look for opportunities to be physical on them for our forecheck, our speed.
"Doesn't necessarily have to be a big hit, but utilizing our legs, getting on the right side of guys, creating turnovers that way is part of being physical, too. We feel we can play that game as well. We're going to make a couple of adjustments . . . and give it our best shot."